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May 3, 2018

Maya Mopan Village Complains About Logging by Neighboring Villager

There is concern by villagers in Maya Mopan, Stann Creek where for some time now, persons from neighboring Santa Maria Village have been illegally logging in the area. Today, Alcalde Constancio Teul traveled to Belize City and visited with News Five where he confirmed that permits were issued to a resident to remove forest produce from national land in Santa Maria Village. But the extraction is in fact happening in Maya Mopan, for which approval was not given. Reporter Duane Moody files this report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Constancio Teul, the Alcalde from Maya Mopan, is up in arms over what he says is the unrelenting illegal extraction of timber from his community in southern Belize. For years, and recently, at an increasingly alarming rate, persons have been entering farm land set aside for the village and pillaging the forest. He has since made queries with the branch of the Forest Department in Savannah, but to no avail.

 

Constancio Teul

Constancio Teul, Alcalde, Maya Mopan

“This started like a year and a half ago and the past leaders have already sent a letter to the authorities who are responsible for that, but there is no answer. And they are still continuing these logging in Maya Mopan. So I am very concerned because the logging is happening in surveyed farm lands that are for Maya Mopan. So I want to know who gave them the permission and if it is the lands department, then I believe that they should go and actually see where they are doing the logging. The destruction Duane is really terrible because the rainforest back there is like is no more. You can see with the pictures; it is terrible.”

 

Duane Moody

“You’ve reached out to Forest Department down there?”

 

Constancio Teul

“That’s what I did first Duane. I reported the incident to the forestry. And indeed Mister Gillett did went and saw these things and he told me that yeah it is true; it’s illegal. So he said that they were going to confiscate the lumber, but I call again and he told me that they gave them options because apparently the owner went and spoke with Mister Gillett. And he told me that he gave them two options—to go to court or pay three times the value of the lumber that was there. And he told me that he already spoke to them that they should not continue logging in the area that they were.”

 

Duane Moody

“When did this happen?”

 

Constancio Teul

“That happened about two weeks ago, but obviously it still continues Duane that’s why I am very concerned about this.”

 

Early this week, Teul, accompanied by Independence Police, visited the site and found that loggers were in possession of petty permits for forest produce in reserves and national lands. While they appeared to be authentic, the permits were issued to a Fredy Fermin Ortiz of Santa Maria, Stann Creek to cut, collect and remove yemeri trees from national land at Santa Maria. In one instance, the permit expired on April twentieth, 2018 and in another case, the approval was only for the extraction of three yemeri trees.

 

Constancio Teul

“They had permits but I question them because the dates to me does not coincide with what they are doing there. They have permit, but I am not sure if they are supposed to be cutting there because the permit doesn’t say in that area there; it says Santa Maria and I believe that is more further south of Maya Mopan. The dates are expired and they are still logging. And if you look at the receipts or the permission slips that are given to them, it doesn’t say how much. Some parts it doesn’t say how much, the other one says three. But if you go there and you will see with the pictures that I have, it is more than three trees. And we actually found a thatched building where they are storing these logs.”

 

On Wednesday, loggers were discovered with a large quantity of flitches beneath a thatched shed about a mile south of Maya Mopan Village. A fifteen-year-old minor of Indian Creek Village in Toledo District was detained along with fifty-one-year-olds Jose Navas and Domingo Gonzalez, both of Santa Cruz Village, Stann Creek District for possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition. The charges are for a Smith and Wesson brand point thirty-eight revolver containing five live rounds of ammunition. Also discovered during a search were an additional ten rounds of point thirty-eight ammunition and three-twelve gauge cartridges.

 

Constancio Teul

“Our villagers go—because it is not far from Maya Mopan—they go and walk in the forest there looking for sticks that they want to use at home and so on. But actually, there are people who are shooting in the forest and I am scared that one of these innocent people might get shot because of these people. And I think it is illegal. Why will they have weapons? I mean you are cutting logs and getting lumber; why weapons?”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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